Prolific debate with state candidates proves politics still interesting
NORMAN, Okla. – A questions and answers session with five state candidates was organized by the League of Women Voters Norman on Monday. In a relative calm atmosphere, the candidates responded to numerous questions.
The runners who responded to the LWVN were Matt Failing, a Democrat running for House District 20, Claudia Griffith, current Democratic legislator of House District 45 running for re-election, Jacob Rosecrants, and Scott Martin, current Republican legislator of House District 46, both are running for HD 46, and Shawn Sheehan, independent candidate running for Senate District 15.
State budget, taxes
All the candidates agreed the state’s budget needs more diversification, and tax credit should be reduced. Failing and Sheehan also said SQ 640 voted on in March 1992 that modified the constitution, is greatly restraining any possibility of modification of Oklahoma’s tax system.
“We have $7 billion of tax exemption today,” Martin said. “I didn’t vote for the state budget for the first time in 10 years because we didn’t do enough.”
“As our budget is mainly dependent on oil and gas industries, when it falls, our budget falls, too,” Rosecrants said.
A majority of the candidates support SQ 779 to raise a sales tax for funding education, but with more or less motivation, Martin noted, “This is our best worst option.” Griffith, undecided, thinks it could affect the budget of the cities.
“I was frustrated that this measure was not proposed by our leadership,” Sheehan said.
Griffith and Rosecrants believe increasing tax on services is regressive. At the opposite Martin, Shaheen and Failing believed it could help to improve the state budget. Shaheen added an increase, of a small amount, of the fuel tax could be very profitable for the state with a small impact on people’s budgets.
“Increased tax on services could help to lower tax on groceries,” Martin said.
In addition, all candidates believe mental health care should be improved with no real solutions on how to do it. Rosecrants and Shawn believed SQ 779 could help in this direction.
“We have to move away from criminalizing insanity because it is ridiculous, and move towards common sense reform to help people with medication and science,” Failing said
Only Martin disagreed on Medicaid expansion saying, “The federal system is not the way to do it.”
Local government, education, right to farm
All candidates agreed to give more power to cities’ government, but dependent on the issue.
“Local control for cities, especially on oil and gas, need to stay within the local municipalities,” Griffith said.
None of the candidates approved the school privatization program in Oklahoma. Griffith showed the example of the Indian tribe health service reforms in Oklahoma that occurred in the 90s.
“What it did for the larger tribes was great but the smaller tribes suffered, they are still suffering now,” Griffith said.
Further, all candidates besides Martin disapproved SQ 790, Griffith added SQ 790 should be for all religions and groups and not just representing Christians.
“It opens up the door for a mess of everything to take the public funds to use them for private religious entities,” Shaheen said.
“I was happy to vote for it,” Martin said. “It reminds me where we came from.”
Then for the “Right to Farm” legislation, only Martin is pro-SQ 777 saying, “That if it passes or not I don’t really think it is going to change anything.”
Other candidates denounced the fact it will be almost impossible to remove the law after it has been voted, and that the law represents only big corporations’ interests.
“This is a measure to elevate a profession above the law, no profession should be above the law,” Failing said.
Reproduction rights, child protection services
Griffith is not opposed to abortion. The male candidates’ opinions were more contrasted; Martin is pro-life and will do everything to stop abortion. Rosecrants is against abortion, but said only women should decide for their body. Shaheen and Failing are for the respect of women’s body, Shaheen adding, “I am a pro-adoption.”
“This is my vessel, God gave it to me, I am the one to decide what to do with it,” Griffith said. “Nobody in this room, no state, and federal governments can decide what I do with my body.”
Concerning the funding of services and transportations including child protection services, the three new candidates said it has to be fully funded. The two current legislators responded there is no money, and believe the best way is to wait for the result of the lawsuit against the federal government that could provide over $1 million.
“With the actual budget, this is not going to be fully funded,” Griffith said.
Retirement income, civil asset forfeiture
A majority of the candidates were against an increase of retired revenue because it will cost too much to the state budget, and will favor a group to another.
A majority of candidates disapproved the actual law on civil asset forfeiture that can encourage corruption and abuse from the police department.
“Our police officers have to take cash from drug dealers in order to fund their equipment,” Failing said.
Americans with Disabilities Act
All candidates agreed that the Americans with Disabilities Act can be improved. Griffith said the accessibility for public buildings such as the State Capitol doesn’t facilitate access for disabled people. Martin believes legislators should listen more directly to disabled persons to see what can be improved.
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